Terryl Givens discusses the paradoxes inherent in Mormon culture’s relationship to American society — following on the theme of his book People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture — at the Oxford University Press blog today. An administrator of the OUPblog has pointed out in a comment here at ABEV that Professor Givens wrote the blog post. It seems like a fascinating introduction to the concepts addressed in the book but also addresses a current issue of debate surrounding whether being a Mormon should disqualify someone for political office in the United States.
Givens opens the post with a description of the siege of Nauvoo, which I believe many Latter-day Saints probably are not aware of, much less others who are not members of the Church:
On the 10th of September, 1846, the bombardment began and continued sporadically for three days. As many as 800 (some Mormons said 1800) U.S militiamen and area citizens with six pieces of canon had surrounded the virtually deserted city of Nauvoo, Illinois. The two to three hundred remaining Mormons converted some steamboat shafts to canon and threw up barricades in a feeble attempt to survive. After a stubborn resistance by the besieged, and a daring sortie that brought temporary respite but at a cost of three Mormon lives, the combatants signed an agreement of capitulation on September 16th. By October, the Mormon temple in Nauvoo—finished at such tremendous sacrifice even while persecutions raged—was desecrated, the beautiful city that had recently rivaled Chicago in size was a shell of its former self, and the last weary and infirm Mormons had joined their fellow believers in forcible exile. They left behind not just the “City of Joseph,” but the very borders of the United States of America.
I look forward to reading Givens’s book soon and learning from his perspective of the paradoxes of Mormon history and culture.
As for Givens’s current blog post, it makes the obvious point that the Evangelical creedalist contention that Mitt Romney’s (or any other LDS politician’s) religion disqualifies him (or her) or renders him (or her) unfit for the office of President of the United States (or any other political office in the United States) is ironic:
[I]t seems ironic that the candidate with the most explicit theological grounds for special loyalty to the American constitution and rule of law, is the only candidate whose theological attachments are singled out as possible disqualifiers for presidential office.
The irony stems from the paradoxes of LDS life in America, and Givens’s example of the siege of Nauvoo is apropos. Specifically, at the same time U.S. militiamen and (non-Mormon) area residents were surrounding and sieging Nauvoo to break the remaining few hundred Mormons who were still there (the rest had already fled the city that they had built — and which rivaled Chicago in size at that time in the 1840s — in the largest forced migration in U.S. history), Mormon pioneer men had left their families and wagon trains en route to a safe haven in the isolated high deserts west of the Rockies in order to join the U.S. army in its confrontation with Mexico in the Mexican-American War.
But such patriotism and devotion to America in the history of Mormonism does not overcome a failure to profess the “one substance” doctrine of Trinitarian Creeds in qualifying Mormon politicians for office in the eyes of some (many?) Evangelical creedalists.